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The Net's second most-beloved monopolist makes its move
Once there was a free and useful site called the InterNIC -- originally a US government project, the Internet Network Information Center. ISPs around the world used it daily, by hand and via automated tools, to check on names using whois and to access domain name registration forms. The InterNIC was run by the current monopolist in the granting of domain names, Network Solutions Inc.
Over the weekend of March 20-21, NSI made the InterNIC site go away. They redirected "internic.net" to point to the NSI corporate site. Need To Know  points out that NSI sued Eugene Kashpureff in 1997 over a not dissimilar act of Net hijacking .
At its meeting in Singapore earlier this month, ICANN -- the agency chartered with privatizing domain naming and numbering -- established rules  and a timetable  for opening domain-name registration to five new competitors. NSI must open its databases to new registrars on April 26.
In recent months NSI has mounted an advertising campaign calling itself "the dot com company." (Do not confuse with Sun Microsystems, who "put the dot in dot com.") Last week NSI took more technical steps to cement its central position once competition arrives. The moves generated a storm of protest from ISPs and network operators, as well as from potential competitors. When NSI unveiled a new Web site and new services and redirected "internic.net" to point there, would-be competitors cried foul  and complained to the US Commerce Department, which historically has overseen NSI's contract. Their complaint is that the term "internic" now means "domain name registration" to a great many people around the world (NSI would probably agree with that) and that the name should not devolve to the monopolist incumbent.
Here's what NSI did, apparently, over the previous weekend.
NSI's troubles are mounting. Yesterday Asensio & Company, a member of the National Association of Securities Dealers, issued a press release titled NSOL Possesses No Lock on Domain Registry or Registrar Businesses . It begins:
This story notes that the government owns the trademark on the term "InterNIC." How fast can the Commerce Department move on a trademark lawsuit?
Following Asensio's short-sell report cited above, NSI's share price plummeted more than $52 over the past week to close on Friday above $106.
And you thought the Net was slow already
The European Parliament recently drafted  an anti-piracy law to protect intellectual property that has the side effect of banning Internet caching in Europe. The BBC provides a good synoposis of the ill-conceived "clause 5.1" . Internet technical bodies have joined with the music industry (which lobbied hard for the anti-piracy measure) in trying to get the clause withdrawn from the legislation, but their work has been complicated by the forced resignation of the EU commissioners under charges of corruption.
Five startups each hope to be the one you'll trust with your private data
Robert Gebeloff notes in an article  in the Bergen (NJ) Record that Al Gore last month restated his belief that Congress needs to enact new privacy legislation:
The NY Times ran a strong piece  today about the collision of personal privacy concerns and online marketing, and the infomediaries who hope to make a buck by standing between the colliding trains.
Randy Sparkman <rsparkman at att dot net> sends this pointer  to an article on infomediaries he wrote that is scheduled to appear in American Outlook, the Hudson Institute quarterly.
Consumer privacy is an issue many Americans can agree on, even if they don't support legislation to protect it. But Vice President Gore may have chosen a singularly poor example to exemplify privacy concerns, according to Jon Acheson <acheson at wefa dot com>, who notes that he "used to work for a large pharmaceutical market research firm and [has] just come out from under a 5-year NDA."
The companies who buy the data don't care what you the individual consumer is buying. What they're actually using the data for is to see whether or not their sales reps are doing their jobs, so all they want is regional sales trends. The level of granularity only goes down to zip code at its absolute tightest, and even then they'll merge multiple zipcodes together if the population is low enough, both to ensure privacy and to get a decent statistical sample.
The market research companies that process the data and sell it to the pharmaceutical companies are quite aware of the privacy issues involved and are VERY scrupulous to avoid even seeing confidential information, in order to maintain trust, and avoid lawsuits and jail time. If they weren't careful, one unfavorable news report could cause their data suppliers to stop selling to them because of the negative publicity. Poof! Out of business!
What's open, what's free, and what's neither
As Linux and the open source movement get more attention in mainstream media, many companies are declaring their own open source initiatives. In many cases these moves are accompanied by new variants on the OS licensing model that may distribute the rights surrounding the public source code in different ways.
The community consensus on what can and cannot be labeled "Open Source" is contained in this Open Source Definition , which was derived from Bruce Perens's <bruce at perens dot com> Debian Free Software Guidelines in 1997.
Among the recent entrants into the open source arena are Apple, Sun, IBM, and the Australian company Bowerbird Software. Here are the licenses these companies have introduced with their OS initiatives.
At Apple's announcement  of the open OS X, dubbed Darwin, Eric Raymond was on the stage with Steve Jobs and endorsed Apple's actions. Now three members of the open source community -- Bruce Perens, Wichert Akkerman, and Ian Jackson -- have analyzed  the Apple APSL and pointed out its deviations from the open source model. (This document also refers in passing to IBM's Jikes license.) The critique questions a number of points in the APSL, including
Apple has responded  to the criticism, saying it's sincerely trying to do the right thing here.
This week Richard Stallman weighed in on the debate  and in the process made the clearest statement I've seen of why he has refused to embrace the open source initiative:
Bowerbird's NCL  attempts to remedy the disconnect between the totally free variants such as the GPL  and the more commercially oriented licenses such as the APSL . It does this by introducing a 2-year period in which the author of a work can negotiate terms for binary redistribution rights. Appended to Linux Today's article  on the NCL is a small amount of community commentary, all negative at the time of this writing. Thanks to TBTF Irregular Chuck Bury for pointing it out.
Finally, here are several licenses that, according to Perens and others in the community, fully meet the Open Source Definition.
Four online troublemakers birth an e-business manifesto
David Weinberger, Chris Locke, Doc Searles, and Rick Levine are troublemakers in the same way Martin Luther was. They aren't so much creating a revolution as announcing one. They have nailed 95 theses to the door of worldwide business. The message is: networked markets are conversations; business can join the party or become roadkill. Visit the Cluetrain , the site these ringleaders have raised to host the conversation. The site contains far too many appealing soundbytes to even attempt excerpting. A number of us have signed on in support of the Cluetrain  and you can too .
Here are particulars for the Cluetrain ringleaders.
David Weinberger firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.hyperorg.com/ Chris Locke email@example.com http://www.rageboy.com/ Doc Searles firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.searls.com/ Rick Levine email@example.com http://www.hatfactory.com/ http://www.cluetrain.com/
Will Naomi be Little Nell for the end of the millenium?
In 1840 and 1841 Charles Dickens wrote The Old Curiosity Shop and published it in installments, week by week, in his magazine "Master Humphrey's Clock." The novel found its most passionate audience in America. Serial installments arrived by boat in New York and crowds gathered each week at the docks. As the ship carrying the next installment hove into view a cry would go up: "Does Little Nell yet live?" It was answered from the decks of the approaching boat, for many months in the affirmative .
For his next book Naomi , mainstream author Douglas Clegg  has decided to cut out the middlemen -- all of them. No publisher, no distributor, no bookseller. (And no profit.) Clegg will email 5-8 pages per week of "a ghost story with echoes of classic chillers from Edgar Allan Poe to Nathaniel Hawthorne" free to anyone who requests it (sign up here , but see below). Clegg will be writing the novel over the spring and summer as it is distributed. The installments will be edited before mailing. He plans no other publication or distribution for the novel. The first episode will arrive on May 1 with 17 more to follow. Those who sign up late will be able to catch up at OneList, the site hosting Clegg's mailing list.
Clegg, a great fan of the online life, acknowledges that his is not the first novel serialized in email. The distinction he claims for Naomi is that it will be the first by a professional novelist to be written entirely during its serial distribution, in the manner of Dickens.
Thanks to TBTF Irregular Rick Treitman for forwarding the e-serial news.
A new independent voice on TBTF
TBTF is pleased to host Lloyd Wood's essays on the people and trends of the digital age. He chooses to call them Jaundiced Eye, and they will appear here from time to time. Lloyd's name may not be familiar to most TBTF readers, save that segment who follow the development of space-based communications satellites; his satellite pages ,  are justly celebrated. His writing is precise and his viewpoint is acerbic. Follow the links to Lloyd Wood's Jaundiced Eye: #2 -- Notes on [Donald] Norman , and Jaundiced Eye #1: An evening with Eric Raymond, NT personality .
Why Mac users squint
Ever wondered why Web sites aimed primarily at Windows users sometimes look to Mac users as if they had been handset by elves? Geoff Duncan, writing in TidBITS , explains in impressive detail
Blocking Web ads goes mainstream
TBTF first reported on an ad blocker, Internet Fast Forward, nearly three years ago . At the time Web advertising was in its infancy and the idea of a commercial product to give users control over what ads they saw, if any, was too hot for any established company with mainstream clients. That first ad-blocking company, PrivNet, had been started by three college students. PGP bought PrivNet at the end of 1996 . While PGP at the time was no-one's idea of a buttoned-down company, they nonetheless quickly buried the PrivNet technology and product.
In the intervening years the Web demographic has ballooned with users reared on television, not on a text-based and non-commercial Internet. Though Web ads are far more pervasive than in 1996 the proportion of Netizens who find them intrusive and offensive is smaller. And now companies as mainstream as Siemens dare to offer ad blockers. Siemens's WebWasher  is available free to individual users on Windows systems (no other platform is mentioned on the site). WebWasher's proxy server, running in a tiny memory footprint on the user's PC, strips ads and replaces them with glorious whitespace. The resulting browsing experience is soothing and speedy.
TBTF Irregular Riley Rainey sent the WebWasher pointer.
Can't miss with this Internet stock
In the 60s people aspired to write the great American novel. In the 80s they pursued the great American screenplay and in the 90s the great American business plan. What kind of business plan pops out when Larry Ellison, Mitchell Kurtzman, and David Roux put their heads together? The answer is Heyidiot.com , which sounds so plausible it's downright scary:
Cwm Silicon Newport, Gwent, South Wales Silicon Hollow Oak Ridge, Tennessee Silicon Island (#5) St. John, Virgin Islands Silicon Necklace Route 128 around Boston, Massachusetts Silicon Polder The Netherlands Silicon Sandbar Cape Cod, MassachusettsI've also split the page into four pieces; it was long past unwieldy.
TBTF home and archive at http://tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send the the message "subscribe" to firstname.lastname@example.org. TBTF is Copyright 1994-1999 by Keith Dawson, <dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com>. Commercial use pro- hibited. For non-commercial purposes please forward, post, and link as you see fit. _______________________________________________ Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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Most recently updated 1999-04-16